Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: Superwoman #14

Superwoman #14 was released last week and a lot happens over the 20 pages. A lot. In fact so much happens, with so much progression and some large plot leaps, that I can't help but wonder if this was three issues of stories shoved into one. And anytime I feel like the creative team is trying to stuff all their stories into a book at the bottom of the sales chart, I wonder if the writing is on the wall.

And that is a shame because writer K. Perkins has clearly righted the ship on this title. Lana is in control of her life. She is seeking out answers for who she is. She wants to be a hero. There is character growth. And it is a shame because the art team of Stephen Segovia and Art Thibert are producing gorgeous art.

This book needs a little promotion, a little love from DC. And it sort of isn't getting any.

So this issue sort of suffers by the breakneck speed as so much happens that I am craving the details to fill in the story.

On to the book.

Last issue ended with a bloody battle erupting in the fields of Smallville. Luthor was facing off against Red Son and Superwoman, both mad with Red K power. And then Supergirl shows up.

This issue opens up with Red Son subdued, Superwoman in control of herself, and those two and Supergirl in the DEO Scabbard headquarters.

Ummm ... how did we get here? Is there a Superwoman #13.5 ashcan somewhere that explains what happened.

Now certainly many comics open with a moment like this and then fill in the gaps with a flashback. So as I was reading this issue I kept waiting for the 'Then' caption box and the fight. But that never happens.

How did Lana regain control? How did Red Son get subdued? How did they get here and why? Fill in the details yourself.

There are a few throwaway lines about the aftermath of the battle. We hear Lex is still in Smallville trying to handle the PR nightmare of Superwoman tearing apart the town.

I did like the self-reflection here by Lana. She is sick of being in discovery mode of her powers. She hates backsliding. Given all the anxiety and angst of the early going of this book and the recent turnaround, I can see how she would be disheartened. That was a nice touch.

But then we get some coincidences and some jargon. The Kryptonian armor from the Fortress that saved Lana happens to be on loan to the DEO. And Lana wants to talk to Red Son to see how he managed the Red K energy for so long. But she fears that they might trigger each other again.

I'm not sure why Lana needs to figure out how to control her energy given she has been using it in control for a bit. I thought this journey was more about understanding her origins.

 Meanwhile in deep space, we see a version of Maxima looking through scanners at Supergirl on Earth. Panning back, we see the Maxima we met in Perkins run on Supergirl frozen in ice or in some stasis field.

This new woman feels she deserves the title of Maxima and she is going to kill anyone who met the Crucible one, expunging her memory from the universe. This new Maxima definitely has the vibe of the original version. That's interesting given the new direction that Perkins gave the more recent one.

 Meanwhile, the decision gets made to release the monstrous Red Son from the stasis he was in. The hope being that blasts from the Kryptonian armor will neutralize his powers. So there are several pages of a battle with Supergirl fighting Red Son and Lana blasting. The art there is phenomenal so should be enjoyed.

But the plan works. Amos becomes more human. Much like Lar-On, the exposure to Red K is unraveling his DNA, killing him. He did it all out of love for Lana, hoping she'd notice him.

But he at least gives her a much needed chuck in the arm. He says she is the power; she is in control.

Still, this speech seems somewhat stilted, as if the foundation for these feelings and revelations aren't there to bolster it.

 And then, suddenly, the new Maxima is there. She says she has put the other Maxima in 'permanent stasis' and she is here to eliminate all those who would consider the other Maxima as the true heir of Almarac.

Supergirl is barely able to hold her own but this newly confident Lana, someone who owns her powers, jumps into the fray. 

I guess 'permanent stasis' isn't permanent. The Crucible Maxima arrives to join in the fight. She says this villainous Maxima thinks the heir of Almarac has one purpose to mate and continue the race. The new Maxima isn't having any of this. The disgrace is to define a woman by her ability to procreate only.

Just like that the 'bad' Maxima is sent to the Crucible's detention center.

Well that was quick.

 And then a little expositon. The marauding Maxima was soldier on Almarac who thought the tradition of the planet should be honored and went on her rampage.

I'm glad the new Maxima, the one Perkins brought to Supergirl, is in this post-Rebirth continuity. But this whole Maxima plot happened so fast that I just wonder if Perkins hoped she would have more time to have this unfurl? Or maybe she wanted to make sure her Maxima wasn't forgotten and so stuck her into an issue of Superwoman while she had the chance.

I'm not complaining. I like this Maxima. I just want more of her! This whole thing could have used two issues ... not 8 pages.

And then we get a glimpse at the next story arc. Someone is watching Lana.

So we are dropped into the story ahead of where we left it. Red Son is drained, dying, and supportive. The new Maxima is insane so her motivations of scrubbing the world of the other Maxima's memory is delightfully nutty. But how did the real Maxima escape permanent stasis?

This felt a little rushed. And that is a shame because my guess if Red Son was given one more issue and Maxima given two, that Perkins, Segovia, and Thibert would have given us a great story. Because the big beats are all here. They're just missing the supporting details.

Hope the title survives and Perkins et al gets given the space to let the stories breathe.

Overall grade: B-


Anonymous said...

" A lot. In fact so much happens, with so much progression and some large plot leaps, that I can't help but wonder if this was three issues of stories shoved into one."

I also think so. This is the opposite to a decompressed issue.

"And anytime I feel like the creative team is trying to stuff all their stories into a book at the bottom of the sales chart, I wonder if the writing is on the wall."

I'm afraid so, yes.

A pity. Perkins turned a messy turd into an excellent tale featuring conflicted but likeable characters. Unfortunately, Phil Jimenez's run truly hurt this book's potential.

"This issue opens up with Red Son subdued, Superwoman in control of herself, and those two and Supergirl in the DEO Scabbard headquarters."

Indeed. Where is the promised Battle of the Superwomen?

On the plus side... Kara and Lana interacting again! And now it's the younger but seasoned hero giving the older rookie advice. What a twist!

And at the very least I'm happy to see the "Crucible" story arc being remembered.

"Well that was quick."

Definitely rushed.

This could have been a very good story, but it feels like Perkins has been forced to cram three issues into one. I often complain about comics being decompressed nowadays, but this is too rushed.

I've got the feeling that the Superman books are about to undergo drastic changes. A pity because they've not been so good in years.

Martin Gray said...

Great review of a headscratcher of a book. I honestly thought I'd missed an issue when we failed to get any follow-up on the confrontation between Supergirl and Lana and Red Son. I've no handle on who Red Son is beyond a slightly moody school pal... he spoke here as if Lana had been Superwoman for years, which confused me.

Glad as I was to see the return of Mini-Max, the execution of this new story strand was half-arsed to say the least. Talk about tell, not show.

This issue totally reads like a rushed finale. And yet it isn't - I wonder what the story behind the story is.

Anonymous said...

Yeah this one reads like someone got a drop dead date and needs to start wrapping up the storylines however many details and plot threads get lost on the way....sad really.


Anonymous said...

Anyone know if next issue is Supermax part 2, The Terror of the Midnight Protocol or if they are one and the same? I have preordered #15 since it was a Supergirl/Maxima issue but I am wondering now if they crammed both Supermax stories into #14. http://www.dccomics.com/comics/superwoman-2016/superwoman-15

Professor Feetlebaum said...

According to the August Previews, Superwoman 15 IS "Supermax" part 2:
"It's a clash of incredible power as Superwoman and Supergirl struggle to contain the might of Maxima!"

There is no mention of the story's title.